Venice has been depicted and described so often that on arrival you might have the slightly anticlimactic feeling that everything looks exactly as expected, but nothing can prepare you for exploring this fabled city first-hand. Here, we unearth where to stay in Venice.

Any sense of familiarity quickly fades as you start to look around: seeing a stack of furniture being hoisted from a barge up to a top-floor window, or someone fishing knee-deep in the lagoon a hundred metres from dry land, you understand that life here is not like life anywhere else. And the more closely you look, the more fascinating Venice becomes.

But where should you base yourself? Insatiable demand makes Venice’s hotels the most expensive in western Europe, and high season here is longer than anywhere else in Italy. But whatever kind of trip you’re planning, there’s somewhere for everyone. Here is our expert’s guide on where to stay in Venice.

Where to stay in San Marco

The sestiere of San Marco has been the nucleus of Venice for more than a millennium. Many of Venice’s visitors make a beeline for this spot, spend a few hours here, then head for home without staying for even one night. But if you’re looking for luxury, stay around here to make the most of the city’s plushest hotels, the most elegant cafés and the swankiest shops.

Best for five-star views: Baglioni Hotel Luna
Commanding stunning views from the mouth of the Canal Grande; its terraces are among the most spectacular viewpoints in the city.

Best for a super-luxe experience: Gritti Palace
Once the home of the doge, this hotel now offers every hi-tech facility you’d expect of a super-luxe hotel, but has lost none of its famous old-regime opulence.

San-Marco-Where-to-stay-in-Venice

Visitors in front of San Marco's basilica © Claudio Stocco/Shutterstock

Where to stay in Dorsoduro

Some of the finest minor domestic architecture in Venice is concentrated here and the area’s superb collection of galleries makes it the perfect base for art lovers. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the highlight, but there’s also Scuola Grande dei Carmini and the Guggenheim Collection.

Best for impeccable cool: Charming House DD724
In a city awash with nostalgia, the cool high-grade modernist style of this locanda, right by the Guggenheim, comes as a welcome change.

Best for atmospheric rooms: Ca Maria Adele
Five of the twelve rooms in this very upmarket locanda are so-called “theme rooms”, with every item designed to enhance a particular atmosphere.

Water canal with restaurants in Dorsoduro area © Shutterstock

Where to stay in San Polo and Santa Croce

The focal points of daily life in San Polo and Santa Croce are the sociable open space of Campo San Polo and the Rialto area, once the commercial heart of the Republic and still the home of a market that’s famous far beyond the city’s boundaries. The bustle of the stalls and the unspoilt bars are a good antidote to cultural overload.

Best for traditional meets modern: GKK Exclusive Private suite Venezia
Some of the best budget accommodation in the city, this locanda has big rooms and a great location.

Best for a gothic getaway: Ca’ San Giorgio B&B
Exposed timber beams and walls of raw brick advertise the age of the Gothic palazzo that’s occupied by this fine little locanda.

Rialto-where-to-stay-Venice

The renowned Rialto Market © Shutterstock

Where to stay in Cannaregio

The pleasures of this sestiere are generally more a matter of atmosphere than of specific sights, but you shouldn’t leave Venice without seeing the Ghetto, the first area in the world to bear that name and one of Venice’s most evocative quarters.

Best for a monastic retreat: Hotel Abbazia
One of Cannaregio’s most restful hotels, the light-filled Abbazia occupies a former Carmelite monastery.

Best stay in a restored palace: Palazzo Abadessa
All 15 bedrooms (some of them huge) are nicely furnished with genuine antiques, and there’s a lovely secluded garden.

Ghetto-where-to-stay-in-Venice

Venice's historic Ghetto © Luca Giubertoni/Shutterstock

Where to stay in Central Castello

Castello’s central building is the immense Gothic church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (or Zanipolo), the pantheon of Venice’s doges. The museums lie in the southern zone – the Querini-Stampalia picture collection, the museum at San Giorgio dei Greci, and the Museo Diocesano’s sacred art collection.

Best for supporting a family business: Doni
Run by the Doni family since the 1940s, this is a very plain yet cosy one-star near San Zaccaria.

Best for an indulgent escape: Hotel Danieli
This magnificent Gothic palazzo affords just about the most sybaritic hotel experience in the centro storico.

Panorama view of the roofs of Venice from the top of the St Mark's bell tower ( San Marco Campanile ) of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, located on St. Mark's Square in Venice, ItalyChurch of Santi Giovanni e Paolo ©Natalia Volkova/Shutterstock

Where to stay in Eastern Castello

Sights are thinly spread in the eastern section of the Castello sestiere, and a huge bite is taken out of the area by the dockyards of the Arsenale. Nevertheless, the slab of the city immediately to the west contains places that shouldn’t be ignored – the Renaissance San Francesco della Vigna and the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, for example. East of the Arsenale, the entire waterfront offers panoramas of the city.

Best for a mid-budget gem: La Residenza
This fourteenth-century palazzo occupies much of one side of a tranquil square just off the main waterfront.

Best for good-value luxury: Gabrielli
The family-run Gabrielli has occupied its fourteenth-century palazzo since the 1850s, and is one of the best-value four-stars in town.

This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from The Rough Guide to Venice & the Veneto. Top image © Shutterstock. 

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